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The H1 is Vodafone’s first handset designed specifically for use with its new Vodafone 360 social networking-focused mobile service. As such, the handset features Vodafone’s 360 user interface, which does away with the traditional mobile phone home screen and instead uses a 3D contacts book as the lynchpin of its user interface. All calls, emails, chats and social network feeds are group together under each contact’s profile in this contacts view.
This isn’t the first time that Vodafone has decided to get a bit more involved on the handset side of things when launching a new mobile service. It pulled pretty much the same trick when it launched Vodafone Live! in 2003. Back then it introduced a sort of minimum spec for Live! phones, dictating that they had to have a camera, colour screen and the ability to send emails and MMS messages. This time around it is working in partnership with Samsung on the two currently available 360 handsets, the H1 that we’re looking at here and the M1 which we’ll be reviewing shortly. These two handsets are built on the open source Linux based LiMo operating system with the 360 interface added over the top.
This H1 hasn’t been without it’s teething problem with early users reporting numerous problems with locks ups as well as contacts and email syncing issues, but while that’s annoying for early adopters it is perhaps inevitable seeing as this is the first handset built specifically for the service. The question is, now that a bit more time has passed have Vodafone and Samsung managed to iron out these bugs and is the 360 service actually good enough to make you want to use the handset in the first place?
The H1 is a similar height and width to the iPhone, but it is a tad thicker. However, the good news is that the curved edges on the rear mean it doesn’t actually feel all that bulky. The phone is available in either black or metallic grey. We had the grey version and at first glance it certainly looks very much like a premium handset thanks to the brushed aluminium finish used on the bezel that surrounds the screen. However, closer inspection revels that the rest of the handset is actually made from silver coloured plastic that has a slightly cheap feel to it.
As the H1 is a touch-screen phone there aren’t a huge number of physical controls dotted around the chassis. However, there is a power button at the top, dedicated camera and search keys on the right hand side and a volume rocker switch on the left edge. There are also three buttons beneath the screen that act as shortcuts to the dialler, 360 contacts book, and application menus. Vodafone has thankfully also included a standard headphone jack at the top, plus a microUSB port on the left-hand side that’s used for charging and synching.
On the rear you’ll find the camera along with its single LED flash. The camera has a 5.0-megapixel resolution and takes decent enough snaps. The autofocus does its best to help avoid blurry shots and pictures look reasonably good when you transfer them to a PC, although the colours are a little bit muted compared to those in shots take on the likes of the Nokia E72.